Chasing adventure in Alaska...

Alaska. It is a large expanse of wilderness and terrain. Mountains so large that each valley and inlet has a weather system all it's own. I have been going to Alaska in the spring for a long time now for a variety of projects. I have come to learn that options, time, and luck are the keys to the game there. I have spent weeks of down time on helicopter pads, and days huddling wood stoves in Alaska. Mother Nature makes the rules, and I have simply come to roll with her call. This year Andrew Schauer of Bozeman, Montana elected to join me. We were meeting up with Alaskans, Jon Gurry and Dave Magoffin. Jon, Dave, and I have worked together on a bunch of projects over the years. Basically, at this point, we just fly into Anchorage and see what happens.  

^Andrew Schauer waits patiently for a flight. 

^Jon picked us up with a pair of snowmobiles on a trailer and we were off to Girdwood to start the hunt. One of our base camps is a yurt in the woods that Dave owns. It is a perfectly located spot for chasing Mother Nature around the Chugach range.

^Day one recon to see how things were holding up in the local Girdwood highlands. Andrew Schauer thinks it looks pretty, but the clean and clear conditions for the previous two weeks that we were catching the end of made his knees shiver. The snow science math did not compute well for any new snow load.

^The same clear spell had some warm temps as well. Good news was that the locked up snowpack landed itself to exploration in new places. We loaded up and drove over to Seward. The sun was supposed to stay out for two more days, and we were itching to explore.

^No matter what, the views alone were worth the price of admission.

^Andrew kicking the subridge.

^Jon's photographer eyes are always bright when there are views like this around. Seward is a beautiful gem tucked into the hillside shoreline. The quant little community is classic americana with an Alaskan hardness to it. I was smitten.

^On the second day in Seward we rallied the snowmobiles out with some local assistance. Seward native, Dylan Beck, gave us a tour to a spot he suspected would still be holding some cold snow. We motored out to the skin track and ascended with the sun.

^Very nice.

^Dylan, the man with the plan. We were stoked to have his guidance and generosity. Local knowledge is always the most valuable tool in the bag. No one knows it like a local. I was super stoked that he gave us a taste of his local fare. His suspicions were correct and there was indeed some cold snow lingering. Bring together some aspect, some elevation, a bunch of local knowledge, and things tend to work out. 

^The storm began to move in as we moved out to retreat back to Girdwood to wait out the storm and ride Alyeska. Seward was a gem in a situation that should have left us high and dry. I was really grateful for the hospitality of McKenna Larsen and her family as well as Dylan's tour. He cooked me up a hell of a fish and chips down at Chinooks Bar by the harbor too. 

^A day later the storm was stalling out over Girdwood and somehow we noticed blue skies towards Whitier on our way to skin in some trees. Dave's pilot radar readings confirmed the sighting so we made the turn and headed for the surprise blue hole. We figured we could easily get suckered by it, but we had little to loose.

^Sometimes you just need to get out on the road and see what you can see. The chance sighting of a blue sucker hole lead to an evening cram session that yielded surprising results. Better to be lucky then good any day. We were able to do a little exploration, and get a bit of sunny imagery on what should have been a storm day. It was a storm day over in Girdwood, but a short drive away in a different inlet and it was a whole different ball game. The winds began to move in at the end of the day so we rallied out with big surprised looks on our faces. 

^The storm finally took over and I bellied up to a local bar for some March Madness. I love it.

^We rode Alyeska Resort in the storm and killed some powder with a night cap at the Sitzmark for a concert. Local talent, Big Fat Budha rocked the house, and we tried our best to "drink it blue".

^Almost. The haze of frustration lingered for a while longer.

^When it finally broke we had little time to cash in on our reconnoissance. The avalanche conditions were going off in all of our favorite zones in the Talkeetna Range up north. Whitier was wind loaded, and Seward was less efficient. Therefore, we jumped all over one of our old faithful zones near Girdwood in order to try to hammer out as much good imagery as we could. The avalanche conditions were the best there as well. We were burning a lot of gas in the snowmobiles from lap to lap in a race against time. I was pleased with our efficiency in the short time window we had left.

^I was mostly running a video camera and doing some still photo skiing work on this trip, which relegated me to a filming nest a lot of the time. A nest with views like this was not too bad in my book though. My field office is bad ass. I got to make plenty of turns in the photo work I would do with Jon in between Dave and Andrew's laps. We made the best of what Mother Nature dished out.

^As I left on the beautiful drive out of Girdwood towards the airport in Anchorage I was reflecting on all the years I had come to this great state. From Valdez, to the Talkeetnas, to Seward, and everywhere in between. I have been coming here for a long time. Year in year out I come to battle the myriad of natural, material, and logistical factors to try to get Alaskan skiing at it's best. It is always relative, and it is always different. Every single year. However, it never fails to be one hell of an amazing adventure each and every single time.